This current virus outbreak is terrible, but we’ve still got it better than folks who lived between the 5th and 15th centuries. Those were called the Middle Ages because surviving to 50 seemed impossible.

Here’s the deal: if you were a nobleman, you could live well if you owned enough land. But manor homes didn’t have central heat, pest control specialists, or indoor toilets. This meant inhabitants often shared a bed with lice, and they would never consider swimming the moat.

The large manor houses required many laborers, and the cook’s job could be quite time-consuming. Seriously, how many microwaves existed in the year 1200?

There were also lots of serfs, folks who paid the nobleman dues to work on his farmland. I wonder if they ever formed a management organization, governed by a serf board?

Village dwelling required specialists. The barber had the toughest job. He cut hair, pulled teeth, and performed surgery. If someone survived any of those, the barber was also available for bloodletting, which could leave a person not only dead…but anemic too.

The herald was a guy who made public announcements. A crowd gathered at a town square, and this guy shouted public notices. Think of this as the evening news without graphics, correspondents, or body-malfunction ads.

The candlemaker held an important task, because without him villagers couldn’t see each other at night.  Actually, a person might be visible if he wore reflective armor. That would be a knight-light.

Other village specialists included bakers, bow makers, clothiers, shoemakers, hatters, and the smithy who made horseshoes. Horses wore shoes only, because they couldn’t find pants to fit, and often looked silly in hats.

So, to sum up: Today is bad, but the Middle Ages were worse. Without cars, people couldn’t go far. Without maps, they’d get lost outside their villages. And without watches, time would just stand still.

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